Meanwhile, I am continuing to read reading Shirley Hazzard’s “We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think: Selected Essays.” Toward the end I notice an essay titled “The Tuscan in Each of Us.” I turn to it at once. She writes,
“The anthem of praise raised by foreign writers…to Italy, to Tuscany, to Florence, has consistently sounded a note of relief. Its theme is that of a heaven-sent rescue, the rescue of the self from incompleteness. …We celebrate an environment that is both a revelation and a repose to us, a consolation and a home.”
Her essay reminds me of my days in Tuscany last summer, where I spent a few weeks in a small hill town—Radda in Chianti—mid-way between Florence and Siena in the heart of the rolling Chianti hills.
I stayed at a villa-like hotel surrounded by gardens, with roomy lounges, a pool, and a comfortable room with a view out to the gardens and fields below.
I looked out at the villas scattered about the hills of Chianti and it all seemed so desirable. But I was there in the summer when it is warm and know nothing of the long winters that are cold and damp. And I wondered how comfortable it is inside those charming villas after all. I don’t see all the labor that goes into maintaining the olive and grape groves, or the many days of keeping them neat and trim. What I see is very superficial, nothing of the reality.
I was at peace in Tuscany, the countryside seemed so familiar, there’s something about it that keeps me returning to Italy. After roughly nine months of winter, rain, clouds, cold, utterly dreary days in Portland, I head to Italy for summer, sun, blue skies, warmth and parks.
The countryside reminds me of my childhood, the land around the town where I lived until I went to college. All that is gone now. But it remains in Tuscany. I think the landscape of my youth keeps me coming back.
It was always difficult, she said, to come home. She adored Italy. Apart from everything else, it was one of the few places where one’s hopes for the future could be restored. Beautiful, unspoiled fields and hills. Great houses that families had lived in for five hundred years. It was deeply consoling. Also the general sweetness of the people.
James Salter All That Is